Mariam Webster defines autism as “a variable developmental disorder that appears by age three and is characterized by impairment of the ability to form normal social relationships, by impairment of the ability to communicate with others, and by repetitive behavior pattern.” Autism affects 1 in 68 children. 1 in 42 of boys. Autism affects schools. Autism affects families. Autism affects me.

When I was around 12 years old, my brother Dominic was diagnosed with autism. Being 12 years old and uneducated, I didn’t know what this meant.

I didn’t realize how deeply autism would affect my family, and more importantly, my brother.

Anyone who knows my brother Dominic can tell you about his love of affection and hugs, his ever-changing infatuations, his obsession with chicken nuggets, his connection with his iPad, his need for routine, the list goes on and on. Dominic loves being affectionate and he’s more caring than most 7-year olds that you’ll meet. Dominic struggles socially and has a different sense of humor than most 7-year olds do. I like to think he’s pretty funny (but of course I’m biased). Dominic struggles with talking to new people and gets nervous around crowds.

Dominic’s autism does not define him, it is one of the many things that makes him unique.

Many people fail to understand that autism is not curable - there is nothing wrong with being autistic. There is an offense when you say that someone “doesn’t seem autistic.” There is no such thing as “looking autistic.” There is no cause. It is not a phase. And yes, it is rude to say all of those things.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day.

I challenge all who read this to challenge yourself to defeat the stigmas and stereotypes that surround autism. I challenge you to not only educate yourself but those around you. I challenge you to wear blue and "light it up blue" for autism awareness.

Lend a voice to those who can’t always use theirs.